In the days of long ago there reigned over Ithaca, a rugged little island in the sea to the west of Greece, a King whose name was Odysseus.
Odysseus feared no man. Stronger and braver than other men was he, wiser, and more full of clever devices. Far and wide he was known as Odysseus of the many counsels. Wise, also, was his Queen, Penelope, and she was as fair as she was wise, and as good as she was fair.
While their only child, a boy named Telemachus, was still a baby, there was a very great war in Troyland, a country far across the sea.
The brother of the overlord of all Greece beseiged Troy, and the kings and princes of his land came to help him. Many came from afar, but none from a more distant kingdom than Odysseus. Wife and child and old father he left behind him and sailed away with his black-prowed ships to fight in Troyland.
For ten years the siege of Troy went on, and of the heroes who fought there, none was braver than Odysseus. Clad as a beggar he went into the city and found out much to help the Greek armies. With his long sword he fought his way out again, and left many of the men of Troy lying dead behind him. And many other brave feats did Odysseus do.
After long years of fighting, Troy at last was taken. With much rich plunder the besiegers sailed homewards, and Odysseus set sail for his rocky island, with its great mountain, and its forests of trembling leaves.
Of gladness and of longing his heart was full. With a great love he loved his fair wife and little son and old father, and his little kingdom by the sea was very dear to him.
"I can see nought beside sweeter than a man's own country," he said. Very soon he hoped to see his dear land again, but many a long and weary day was to pass ere Odysseus came home.
Odysseus was a warrior, and always he would choose to fight rather than to be at peace.
As he sailed on his homeward way, winds drove his ships near the shore. He and his company landed, sacked the nearest city, and slew the people. Much rich plunder they took, but ere they could return to their ships, a host of people came from inland. In the early morning, thick as leaves and flowers in the spring they came, and fell upon Odysseus and his men.
All day they fought, but as the sun went down the people of the land won the fight. Back to their ships went Odysseus and his men. Out of each ship were six men slain. While they were yet sad at heart and weary from the fight, a terrible tempest arose.
Land and sea were blotted out, the ships were driven headlong, and their sails were torn to shreds by the might of the storm. For two days and two nights the ships were at the mercy of the tempests. At dawn on the third day, the storm passed away, and Odysseus and his men set up their masts and hoisted their white sails, and drove homeward before the wind.
So he would have come safely to his own country, but a strong current and a fierce north wind swept the ships from their course. For nine days were they driven far from their homeland, across the deep sea.
On the tenth day they reached the Land of the Lotus Eaters. The dwellers in that land fed on the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus flower. Those who ate the lotus ceased to remember that there was a past or a future. All duties they forgot, and all sadness. All day long they would sit and dream and dream idle, happy dreams that never ended.
Here Odysseus and his men landed and drew water. Three of his warriors Odysseus sent into the country to see what manner of men dwelt there. To them the Lotus Eaters gave their honey-sweet food, and no sooner had each man eaten than he had no wish ever to return to the ships. He longed for ever to stay in that pleasant land, eating the lotus fruit, and dreaming the happy hours away.
Back to the ships Odysseus dragged the unwilling men, weeping that they must leave so much joy behind. Beneath the benches of his ship he tightly bound them, and swiftly he made his ships sail from the shore, lest yet others of his company might eat of the lotus and forget their homes and their kindred.
Soon they had all embarked, and, with heavy hearts, the men of Ithaca smote the gray sea-water with their long oars, and sped away from the land of forgetfulness and of sweet day-dreams.
On and on across the waves sailed the dark-prowed ships of Odysseus, until again they came to land.
It was the Land of the Cyclôpes, a savage and lawless people, who never planted, nor plowed, nor sowed, and whose fields yet gave them rich harvests of wheat and of barley, and vines with heavy clusters of grapes. In deep caves, high up on the hills, these people dwelt, and each man ruled his own wife and children, but himself knew no ruler.
Outside the harbor of the Land of the Cyclôpes lay a thickly wooded island. No hunters went there, for the Cyclôpes owned neither ships nor boats, so that many goats roamed unharmed through the woods and cropped the fresh green grass.
It was a green and pleasant land. Rich meadows stretched down to the sea, the vines grew strong and fruitful, and there was a fair harbor where ships might be run right on to the beach. At the head of the harbor was a well of clear water flowing out of a cave, and with poplars growing around it. Thither Odysseus directed his ships. It was dark night, with no moon to guide, and mist lay deep on either side, yet they passed the breakers and rolling surf without knowing it, and anchored safely on the beach.
All night they slept, and when rosy dawn came they explored the island and slew with their bows and long spears many of the wild goats of the woods.
All the livelong day Odysseus and his men sat and feasted. As they ate and drank, they looked across the water at the Land of the Cyclôpes, where the smoke of wood fires curled up to the sky, and from whence they could hear the sound of men's voices and the bleating of sheep and goats. When darkness fell, they lay down to sleep on the sea-beach, and when morning dawned Odysseus called his men together and said to them: "Stay here, all the rest of you, my dear companions, but I will go with my own ship and my ship's company and see what kind of men are those who dwell in this land across the harbor."
So saying, he climbed into his ship, and his men rowed him across to the Land of the Cyclôpes. When they were near the shore they saw a great cave by the sea. It was roofed in with green laurel boughs and seemed to be meant for a fold to shelter sheep and goats. Round about it a high outer wall was firmly built with stones, and with tall and leafy pines and oak-trees.
In this cave, all alone with his flocks and herds, dwelt a huge and hideous one-eyed giant. Polyphemus was his name, and his father was Poseidon, god of the sea.
Taking twelve of his best men with him, Odysseus left the others to guard the ship and sallied forth to the giant's cave. With him he carried a goat-skin full of precious wine, dark red, and sweet and strong, and a large sack of corn.
Soon they came to the cave, but Polyphemus was not there. He had taken off his flocks to graze in the green meadows, leaving behind him in the cave folds full of lambs and kids. The walls of the cave were lined with cheeses, and there were great pans full of whey, and giant bowls full of milk.
"Let us first of all take the cheeses," said the men of Odysseus to their King, "and carry them to the ships. Then let us return and drive all the kids and lambs from their folds down to the shore, and sail with them in our swift ships homeward over the sea."
But Odysseus would not listen to what they said. He was too great hearted to steal into the cave like a thief and take away the giant's goods without first seeing whether Polyphemus might not treat him as a friend, receiving from him the corn and wine he had brought, and giving him gifts in return.
So they kindled a fire, and dined on some of the cheeses, and sat waiting for the giant to return.
Towards evening he came, driving his flocks before him, and carrying on his back a huge load of firewood, which he cast down on the floor with such a thunderous noise that Odysseus and his men fled in fear and hid themselves in the darkest corners of the cave. When he had driven his sheep inside, Polyphemus lifted from the ground a rock so huge that two-and-twenty four-wheeled wagons could not have borne it, and with it blocked the doorway. Then, sitting down, he milked the ewes and bleating goats, and placed the lambs and kids each beside its own mother.
Half of the milk he curdled and placed in wicker baskets to make into cheeses, and the other half he left in great pails to drink when he should have supper. When all this was done, he kindled a fire, and when the flames had lit up the dark-walled cave he spied Odysseus and his men.
"Strangers, who are ye?" he asked, in his great, rumbling voice. "Whence sail ye over the watery ways? Are ye merchants? or are ye sea-robbers who rove over the sea, risking your own lives and bringing evil to other men?"
The sound of the giant's voice, and his hideous face filled the hearts of the men with terror, but Odysseus made answer: "From Troy we come, seeking our home, but driven hither by winds and waves. Men of Agamemnon, the renowned and most mightily victorious Greek general, are we, yet to thee we come and humbly beg for friendship."
At this the giant, who had nothing but cruelty in his heart, mocked at Odysseus.
"Thou art a fool," said he, "and I shall not spare either thee or thy company. But tell me where thou didst leave thy good ship? Was it near here, or at the far end of the island?"
But Odysseus of the many counsels knew that the giant asked the question only to bring evil on the men who stayed by the ship, and so he answered: "My ship was broken in pieces by the storm and cast up on the rocks on the shore, but I, with these my men, escaped from death."
Not one word said Polyphemus in reply, but sprang up, clutched hold of two of the men, and dashed their brains out on the stone floor. Then he cut them up, and made ready his supper, eating the two men, bones and all, as if he had been a starving lion, and taking great draughts of the milk from the giant pails. When his meal was done, he stretched himself on the ground beside his sheep and goats, and slept.
In helpless horror Odysseus and his men had watched the dreadful sight, but when the monster slept they began to make plans for their escape. At first Odysseus thought it might be best to take his sharp sword and stab Polyphemus in the breast. But then he knew that even were he thus to slay the giant, he and his men must die. For strength was not left them to roll away the rock from the cave's mouth, and so they must perish like rats in a trap.
All night they thought what they should do, but could think of nought that would avail, and so they could only moan in their bitterness of heart and wait for the dawn. When dawn's rosy fingers touched the sky, Polyphemus awoke. He kindled a fire, and milked his flocks, and gave each ewe her lamb. When this work was done he snatched yet other two men, dashed their brains out, and made of them his morning meal. After the meal, he lifted the stone from the door, drove the flocks out, and set the stone back again. Then, with a loud shout, he turned his sheep and goats towards the hills and left Odysseus and his remaining eight men imprisoned in the cave, plotting and planning how to get away, and how to avenge the death of their comrades.
At last Odysseus thought of a plan. By the sheepfold there lay a huge club of green olive wood that Polyphemus had cut and was keeping until it should be dry enough to use as a staff. So huge was it that Odysseus and his men likened it to the mast of a great merchant vessel. From this club Odysseus cut a large piece and gave it to his men to fine down and make even. While they did this, Odysseus himself sharpened it to a point and hardened the point in the fire. When it was ready, they hid it amongst the rubbish on the floor of the cave. Then Odysseus made his men draw lots who should help him to lift this bar and drive it into the eye of the giant as he slept, and the lot fell upon the four men that Odysseus would himself have chosen.
In the evening Polyphemus came down from the hills with his flocks and drove them all inside the cave. Then he lifted the great doorstone and blocked the doorway, milked the ewes and goats, and gave each lamb and kid to its mother. This done, he seized other two of the men, dashed out their brains, and made ready his supper.
From the shadows of the cave Odysseus now stepped forward, bearing in his hands an ivy bowl, full of the dark red wine.
"Drink wine after thy feast of men's flesh," said Odysseus, "and see what manner of drink this was that our ship held."
Polyphemus grasped the bowl, gulped down the strong wine, and smacked his great lips over its sweetness.
"Give me more," he cried, "and tell me thy name straightway, that I may give thee a gift. Mighty clusters of grapes do the vines of our land bear for us, but this is a rill of very nectar and ambrosia."
Again Odysseus gave him the bowl full of wine, and yet again, until the strong wine went to the giant's head and made him stupid.
Then said Odysseus: "Thou didst ask me my name, and didst say that thou wouldst give me a gift. Noman is my name, and Noman they call me, my father and mother and all my fellows."
Then answered the giant out of his pitiless heart: "I will eat thy fellows first, Noman, and thee the last of all. That shall be thy gift."
Soon the wine made him so sleepy that he sank backwards with his great face upturned and fell fast asleep.
As soon as the giant slept, Odysseus thrust into the fire the stake he had prepared, and made it red hot, all the while speaking cheerfully and comfortingly to his men. When it was so hot that the wood, green though it was, began to blaze, they drew it out and thrust it into the giant's eye. Round and round they whirled the fiery pike, as a man bores a hole in a plank, until the blood gushed out, and the eye frizzled and hissed, and the flames singed and burned the eyelids, and the eye was burned out. With a great and terrible cry the giant sprang to his feet, and Odysseus and the others fled from before him. From his eye he dragged the blazing pike, all dripping with his blood, and dashed it to the ground. Then, maddened with pain, he called with a great and terrible cry on the other Cyclôpes, who dwelt in their caves on the hill-tops round which the wind swept. The giants, hearing his horrid yells, rushed to help him.
"What ails thee, Polyphemus?" they asked. "Why dost thou cry aloud in the night and awake us from our sleep? Surely no one stealeth thy flocks? None slayeth thee by force or by craft."
From the other side of the great stone moaned Polyphemus: "Noman is slaying me by craft."
Then the Cyclôpes said: "If no man is hurting thee, then indeed it must be a sickness that makes thee cry so loud, and this thou must bear, for we cannot help."
With that they strode away from the cave and left the blind giant groaning and raging with pain. Groping with his hands, he found the great stone that blocked the door, lifted it away, and sat himself down in the mouth of the cave, with his arms stretched out, hoping to catch Odysseus and his men if they should try to escape. Sitting there, he fell asleep, and, as soon as he slept, Odysseus planned and plotted how best to win freedom.
The rams of the giant's flocks were great strong beasts, with fleeces thick and woolly, and as dark as the violet. With twisted slips of willow Odysseus lashed every three of them together, and under the middle ram of each three he bound one of his men. For himself he kept the best ram of the flock, young and strong, and with a fleece wonderfully thick and shaggy. Underneath this ram Odysseus curled himself, and clung, face upwards, firmly grasping the wool with his hands. In this wise did he and his men wait patiently for the dawn.
When rosy dawn came, the ewes in the pens bleated to be milked and the rams hastened out to the hills and green meadows. As each sheep passed him, Polyphemus felt along its back, but never guessed that the six remaining men of Odysseus were bound beneath the thick-fleeced rams. Last of all came the young ram to which Odysseus clung, moving slowly, for his fleece was heavy, and Odysseus whom he bore was heavier still. On the ram's back Polyphemus laid his great hands. "Dear ram," said he, "once wert thou the very first to lead the flocks from the cave, the first to nibble the tender buds of the pasture, the first to find out the running streams, and the first to come home when evening fell. But to-day thou art the very last to go. Surely thou art sorrowful because the wicked Noman hath destroyed my eye. I would thou couldst speak and tell me where Noman is hidden. Then should I seize him and gladly dash out his brains on the floor of the cave."
Very, very still lay Odysseus while the giant spoke, but the ram slowly walked on past the savage giant, towards the meadows near the sea. Soon it was far enough from the cave for Odysseus to let go his hold and to stand up. Quickly he loosened the bonds of the others, and swiftly then they drove the rams down to the shore where their ship lay. Often they looked round, expecting to see Polyphemus following them, but they safely reached the ship and got a glad welcome from their friends, who rejoiced over them, but would have wept over the men that the cannibal giant had slain.
"There is no time to weep," said Odysseus, and he made his men hasten on board the ship, driving the sheep before them.
Soon they were all on board, and the gray sea-water was rushing off their oars, as they sailed away from the land of the Cyclôpes.
But before they were out of sight of land, the bold Odysseus lifted up his voice and shouted across the water:
"Hear me, Polyphemus, thou cruel monster! Thine evil deeds were very sure to find thee out. Thou hast been punished because thou hadst no shame to eat the strangers who came to thee as thy guests!"
The voice of Odysseus rang across the waves, and reached Polyphemus as he sat in pain at the mouth of his cave.
In a fury the giant sprang up, broke off the peak of a great hill and cast it into the sea, where it fell just in front of the ship of Odysseus.
So huge a splash did the vast rock give, that the sea heaved up and the backwash of the water drove the ship right to the shore.
Odysseus snatched up a long pole and pushed the ship off once more. Silently he motioned to the men to row hard, and save themselves and their ship from the angry giant. When they were once more out at sea, Odysseus wished again to mock Polyphemus.
In vain his men begged him not to provoke a monster so mighty that he could crush their heads and the timbers of their ship with one cast of a stone. Once more Odysseus shouted across the water:
"Polyphemus, if any one shall ask thee who blinded thee, tell them it was Odysseus of Ithaca."
Then moaned the giant:
"Once, long ago, a soothsayer told me that Odysseus should make me blind. But ever I looked for the coming of a great and gallant hero, and now there hath come a poor feeble, little dwarf, who made me weak with wine before he dared to touch me."
Then he begged Odysseus to come back, and said he would treat him kindly, and told him that he knew that his own father, the god of the sea, would give him his sight again.
"Never more wilt thou have thy sight," mocked Odysseus; "thy father will never heal thee."
Then Polyphemus, stretching out his hands, and looking up with his sightless eye to the starry sky, called aloud to Poseidon, god of the sea, to punish Odysseus.
"If he ever reaches his own country," he cried, "let him come late and in an evil case, with all his own company lost, and in the ship of strangers, and let him find sorrows in his own house."
No answer came from Poseidon, but the god of the sea heard his son's prayer.
With all his mighty force Polyphemus then cast at the ship a rock far greater than the first. It all but struck the end of the rudder, but the huge waves that surged up from it bore on the ship, and carried it to the further shore.
There they found the men with the other ships waiting in sorrow and dread, for they feared that the giants had killed Odysseus and his company. Gladly they drove the rams of Polyphemus on to the land, and there feasted together until the sun went down.
All night they slept on the sea beach, and at rosy dawn Odysseus called to his men to get into their ships and loose the hawsers. Soon they had pushed off, and were thrusting their oars into the gray sea-water.
Their hearts were sore, because they had lost six gallant men of their company, yet they were glad as men saved from death.
Across the seas sailed Odysseus and his men till they came to an island where lived Æolus the keeper of the winds. When Odysseus again set sail, Æolus gave him a great leather bag in which he had placed all the winds except the wind of the west. His men thought the bag to be full of gold and silver, so, while Odysseus slept they loosened the silver thong, and, with a mighty gust all the winds rushed out driving the ship far away from their homeland.
Ere long they reached another island, where dwelt a great enchantress, Circe of the golden tresses, whose palace Eurylochus discovered. Within they heard Circe singing, so they called to her and she came forth and bade them enter. Heedlessly they followed her, all but Eurylochus. Then Circe smote them with her magic wand and they were turned into swine.
When Odysseus heard what had befallen his men he was very angry and would have slain her with his sword. But Circe cried: "Sheathe thy sword, I pray thee, Odysseus, and let us be at peace." Then said Odysseus: "How can I be at peace with thee, Circe? How can I trust thee?" Then Circe promised to do Odysseus no harm, and to let him return in safety to his home.
Then she opened the doors of the sty and waved her wand. And the swine became men again even handsomer and stronger than before.
For a whole year Odysseus and his men stayed in the palace, feasting and resting. When they at last set sail again the sorceress told Odysseus of many dangers he would meet on his homeward voyage, and warned him how to escape from them.
In an island in the blue sea through which the ship of Odysseus would sail toward home, lived some beautiful mermaids called Sirens. Even more beautiful than the Sirens' faces were their lovely voices by which they lured men to go on shore and there slew them. In the flowery meadows were the bones of the foolish sailors who had seen only the lovely faces and long, golden hair of the Sirens, and had lost their hearts to them.
Against these mermaids Circe had warned Odysseus, and he repeated her warnings to his men.
Following her advice he filled the ears of the men with wax and bade them bind him hand and foot to the mast.
Past the island drove the ship, and the Sirens seeing it began their sweet song. "Come hither, come hither, brave Odysseus," they sang. Then Odysseus tried to make his men unbind him, but Eurylochus and another bound him yet more tightly to the mast.
When the island was left behind, the men took the wax from their ears and unbound their captain. After passing the Wandering Rocks with their terrible sights and sounds the ship came to a place of great peril. Beyond them were yet two huge rocks between which the sea swept.
One of these ran up to the sky, and in this cliff was a dark cave in which lived Scylla a horrible monster, who, as the ship passed seized six of the men with her six dreadful heads.
In the cliff opposite lived another terrible creature called Charybdis who stirred the sea to a fierce whirlpool.
By a strong wind the ship was driven into this whirlpool, but Odysseus escaped on a broken piece of wreckage to the shores of an island.
On this island lived Calypso of the braided tresses, a goddess feared by all men. But, to Odysseus she was very kind and he soon became as strong as ever.
"Stay with me, and thou shalt never grow old and never die," said Calypso.
A great homesickness had seized Odysseus, but no escape came for eight years. Then Athene begged the gods to help him. They called on Hermes, who commanded Calypso to let him go. She wanted him to stay with her but promised to send him away. She told him to make a raft which she would furnish with food and clothing for his need.
He set out and in eighteen days saw the land of the Phæacians appear. But when safety seemed near, Poseidon, the sea-god, returned from his wanderings and would have destroyed him had it not been that a fair sea-nymph gave him her veil to wind around his body. This he did and finally reached the shore.
In the land of the Phæacians there dwelt no more beautiful, nor any sweeter maiden, than the King's own daughter. Nausicaa was her name, and she was so kind and gentle that every one loved her.
To the land of the Phæacians the north wind had driven Odysseus, and while he lay asleep in his bed of leaves under the olive-trees, the goddess Athene went to the room in the palace where Nausicaa slept, and spoke to her in her dreams.
"Some day thou wilt marry, Nausicaa," she said, "and it is time for thee to wash all the fair raiment that is one day to be thine. To-morrow thou must ask the King, thy father, for mules and for a wagon, and drive from the city to a place where all the rich clothing may be washed and dried."
When morning came Nausicaa remembered her dream, and went to tell her father.
Her mother was sitting spinning yarn of sea-purple stain, and her father was just going to a council meeting.
"Father, dear," said the Princess, "couldst thou lend me a high wagon with strong wheels, that I may take all my fair linen to the river to wash. All yours, too, I shall take, so that thou shalt go to the council in linen that is snowy clean, and I know that my five brothers will also be glad if I wash their fine clothing for them."
This she said, for she felt too shy to tell her father what Athene had said about her getting married.
But the King knew well why she asked. "I do not grudge thee mules, nor anything else, my child," he said. "Go, bid the servants prepare a wagon."
The servants quickly got ready the finest wagon that the King had, and harnessed the best of the mules. And Nausicaa's mother filled a basket with all the dainties that she knew her daughter liked best, so that Nausicaa and her maidens might feast together. The fine clothes were piled into the wagon, the basket of food was placed carefully beside them, and Nausicaa climbed in, took the whip and shining reins, and touched the mules. Then with clatter of hoofs they started.
When they were come to the beautiful, clear river, amongst whose reeds Odysseus had knelt the day before, they unharnessed the mules and drove them along the banks of the river to graze where the clover grew rich and fragrant. Then they washed the clothes, working hard and well, and spread them out to dry on the clean pebbles down by the seashore.
Then they bathed, and when they had bathed they took their midday meal by the bank of the rippling river.
When they had finished, the sun had not yet dried the clothes, so Nausicaa and her maidens began to play ball. As they played they sang a song that the girls of that land would always sing as they threw the ball to one another. All the maidens were fair, but Nausicaa of the white arms was the fairest of all.
From hand to hand they threw the ball, growing always the merrier, until, when it was nearly time for them to gather the clothes together and go home, Nausicaa threw it very hard to one of the others. The girl missed the catch. The ball flew into the river, and, as it was swept away to the sea, the Princess and all her maidens screamed aloud.
Their cries awoke Odysseus, as he lay asleep in his bed of leaves.
"I must be near the houses of men," he said; "those are the cries of girls at play."
With that he crept out from the shelter of the olive-trees. He had no clothes, for he had thrown them all into the sea before he began his terrible swim for life. But he broke off some leafy branches and held them round him, and walked down to where Nausicaa and her maidens were.
Like a wild man of the woods he looked, and when they saw him coming the girls shrieked and ran away. Some of them hid behind the rocks on the shore, and some ran out to the shoals of yellow sand that jutted into the sea.
But although his face was marred with the sea-foam that had crusted on it, and he looked a terrible, fierce, great creature, Nausicaa was too brave to run away.
Shaking she stood there, and watched him as he came forward, and stood still a little way off. Then Odysseus spoke to her, gently and kindly, that he might take away her fear.
He told her of his shipwreck, and begged her to show him the way to the town, and give him some old garment, or any old wrap in which she had brought the linen, so that he might have something besides leaves with which to cover himself.
"I have never seen any maiden half so beautiful as thou art," he said. "Have pity on me, and may the gods grant thee all thy heart's desire."
Then said Nausicaa: "Thou seemest no evil man, stranger, and I will gladly give thee clothing and show thee the way to town. This is the land of the Phæacians, and my father is the King."
To her maidens then she called:
"Why do ye run away at the sight of a man? Dost thou take him for an enemy? He is only a poor shipwrecked man. Come, give him food and drink, and fetch him clothing."
The maidens came back from their hiding-places, and fetched some of the garments of Nausicaa's brothers which they had brought to wash, and laid them beside Odysseus.
Odysseus gratefully took the clothes away, and went off to the river. There he plunged into the clear water, and washed the salt crust from off his face and limbs and body, and the crusted foam from his hair. Then he put on the beautiful garments that belonged to one of the Princes, and walked down to the shore where Nausicaa and her maidens were waiting.
So tall and handsome and strong did Odysseus look, with his hair curling like hyacinth flowers around his head, that Nausicaa said to her maidens: "This man, who seemed to us so dreadful so short a time ago, now looks like a god. I would that my husband, if ever I have one, should be as he."
Then she and her maidens brought him food and wine, and he ate hungrily, for it was many days since he had eaten.
When he had finished, they packed the linen into the wagon, and yoked the mules, and Nausicaa climbed into her place.
"So long as we are passing through the fields," she said to Odysseus, "follow behind with my maidens, and I will lead the way. But when we come near the town with its high walls and towers, and harbors full of ships, the rough sailors will stare and say, 'Hath Nausicaa gone to find herself a husband because she scorns the men of Phæacia who would wed her? Hath she picked up a shipwrecked stranger, or is this one of the gods who has come to make her his wife?' Therefore come not with us, I pray thee, for the sailors to jest at. There is a fair poplar grove near the city, with a meadow lying round it. Sit there until thou thinkest that we have had time to reach the palace. Then seek the palace—any child can show thee the way—and when thou art come to the outer court pass quickly into the room where my mother sits. Thou wilt find her weaving yarn of sea-purple stain by the light of the fire. She will be leaning her head back against a pillar, and her maidens will be standing round her. My father's throne is close to hers, but pass him by, and cast thyself at my mother's knees. If she feels kindly towards thee and is sorry for thee, then my father is sure to help thee to get safely back to thine own land."
Then Nausicaa smote her mules with the whip, and they trotted quickly off, and soon left behind them the silver river with its whispering reeds, and the beach with its yellow sand.
Odysseus and the maidens followed the wagon, and just as the sun was setting they reached the poplar grove in the meadow.
There Odysseus stayed until Nausicaa should have had time to reach the palace. When she got there, she stopped at the gateway, and her brothers came out and lifted down the linen, and unharnessed the mules. Nausicaa went up to her room, and her old nurse kindled a fire for her and got ready her supper.
When Odysseus thought it was time to follow, he went to the city. He marveled at the great walls and at the many gallant ships in the harbors. But when he reached the King's palace, he wondered still more. Its walls were of brass, so that from without, when the doors stood open, it looked as if the sun or moon were shining within. A frieze of blue ran round the walls. All the doors were made of gold, the doorposts were of silver, the thresholds of brass, and the hook of the door was of gold. In the halls were golden figures of animals, and of men who held in their hands lighted torches. Outside the courtyard was a great garden filled with blossoming pear-trees and pomegranates, and apple-trees with shining fruit, and figs, and olives. All the year round there was fruit in that garden. There were grapes in blossom, and grapes purple and ready to eat, and there were great masses of snowy pear-blossom, and pink apple-blossom, and golden ripe pears, and rosy apples.
At all of those wonders Odysseus stood and gazed, but it was not for long; for he hastened through the halls to where the Queen sat in the firelight, spinning her purple yarn. He fell at her knees, and silence came on all those in the room when they looked at him, so brave and so handsome did he seem.
"Through many and great troubles have I come hither, Queen," said he; "speed, I pray you, my parting right quickly, that I may come to mine own country. Too long have I suffered great sorrows far away from my own friends."
Then he sat down amongst the ashes by the fire, and for a little space no one spoke.
At last a wise old courtier said to the King: "Truly it is not right that this stranger should sit in the ashes by the fire. Bid him arise, and give him meat and drink."
At this the King took Odysseus by the hand and asked him to rise. He made one of his sons give up his silver inlaid chair, and bade his servants fetch a silver basin and a golden ewer that Odysseus might wash his hands. All kinds of dainties to eat and drink he also made them bring, and the lords and the courtiers who were there feasted along with Odysseus, until it was time for them to go to their own homes.
Before they went the King promised Odysseus a safe convoy back to his own land.
When he was left alone with the King and Queen, the latter said to him: "Tell us who thou art. I myself made the clothing that thou wearest. From whence didst thou get it?"
Then Odysseus told her of his imprisonment in the island of Calypso, of his escape, of the terrible storm that shattered his raft, and of how at length he reached the shore and met with Nausicaa.
"It was wrong of my daughter not to bring thee to the palace when she came with her maids," said the King.
But Odysseus told him why it was that Nausicaa had bade him stay behind.
"Be not vexed with this blameless maiden," he said. "Truly she is the sweetest and the fairest maiden I ever saw."
Then Odysseus went to the bed that the servants had prepared for him. They had spread fair purple blankets over it, and when it was ready they stood beside it with their torches blazing, golden and red.
"Up now, stranger, get thee to sleep," said they. "Thy bed is made."
Sleep was very sweet to Odysseus that night as he lay in the soft bed with warm blankets over him. He was no longer tossed and beaten by angry seas, no longer wet and cold and hungry. The roar of furious waves did not beat in his ears, for all was still in the great halls where the flickering firelight played on the frieze of blue, and turned the brass walls into gold.
Next day the King gave a great entertainment for Odysseus. There were boxing and wrestling and leaping and running, and in all of these the brothers of Nausicaa were better than all others who tried.
But when they came to throw the weight, and begged Odysseus to try, he cast a stone heavier than all others, far beyond where the Phæacians had thrown.
That night there was feasting in the royal halls, and the King's minstrels played and sang songs of the taking of Troy, and of the bravery of the great Odysseus. And Odysseus listened until his heart could bear no more, and tears trickled down his cheeks. Only the King saw him weep. He wondered much why Odysseus wept, and at last he asked him.
So Odysseus told the King his name, and the whole story of his adventures since he had sailed away from Troyland.
Then the King and Queen and their courtiers gave rich gifts to Odysseus. A beautiful silver-studded sword was the King's gift to him.
Nausicaa gave him nothing, but she stood and gazed at him in his purple robes and felt more sure than ever that he was the handsomest and the greatest hero she had ever seen.
"Farewell, stranger," she said to him when the hour came for her to go to bed, for she knew she would not see him on the morrow. "Farewell, stranger. Sometimes think of me when thou art in thine own land."
Then said Odysseus: "All the days of my life I shall remember thee, Nausicaa, for thou hast given me my life."
Next day a company of the Phæacians went down to a ship that lay by the seashore, and with them went Odysseus. They carried the treasures that had been given to him and put them on board, and spread a rug on the deck for him. There Odysseus lay down, and as soon as the splash of the oars in the water and the rush and gush of the water from the bow of the boat told him that the ship was sailing speedily to his dear land of Ithaca, he fell into a sound sleep. Onward went the ship, so swiftly that not even a hawk flying after its prey could have kept pace with her. When the bright morning stars arose, they were close to Ithaca. The sailors quickly ran their vessel ashore and gently carried the sleeping Odysseus, wrapped round in his rug of bright purple, to where a great olive-tree bent its gray leaves over the sand. They laid him under the tree, put his treasures beside him, and left him, still heavy with slumber. Then they climbed into their ship and sailed away.
While Odysseus slept the goddess Athene shed a thick mist round him. When he awoke, the sheltering heavens, the long paths, and the trees in bloom all looked strange to him when seen through the grayness of the mist.
"Woe is me!" he groaned. "The Phæacians promised to bring me to Ithaca, but they have brought me to a land of strangers, who will surely attack me and steal my treasures."
But while he was wondering what he should do, the goddess Athene came to him. She was tall and fair and noble to look upon, and she smiled upon Odysseus with her kind gray eyes.
Under the olive-tree she sat down beside him, and told him all that had happened in Ithaca while he was away, and all that he must do to win back his kingdom and his Queen.